Ross University Blog

ALUMNI: An Unconventional Path to Practicing Psychiatry

July 25, 2016

Kendra Campbell, MD, Ross Alumna
"I have this unique opportunity to make a profound impact on their lives," says psychiatrist Kendra Campbell, MD, of her patients. "And that is a very precious, fulfilling thing."

On her daily walk to the emergency room where she works in Manhattan, Dr. Kendra Campbell takes pictures of things that inspire her along the way.

Sometimes it’s a rusty pay phone, wires disconnected and receiver hanging askew. Sometimes it’s an abandoned Barbie doll, plastic hair matted with dirt. Sometimes it’s the rose-patterned skeleton of a sofa, cushions long gone and picked through for loose change.

Dr. Campbell passes by plenty of conventionally photogenic things, too—daffodils, murals, a glimpse of a pink-rimmed sunrise. But Dr. Campbell prefers the overlooked and discarded.

“I like finding beauty in things that you wouldn’t necessarily think are beautiful,” Dr. Campbell says.

It’s an outlook she brings to her job as Assistant Director of the Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program (CPEP) at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. Many of the patients she sees are homeless, mistreated, or otherwise neglected—in addition to struggling with their mental health.

They’re by no means easy to work with. But that’s exactly why Dr. Campbell finds it so rewarding.

“What I like about being a psychiatrist in the emergency room is that you see people at their breaking points,” says Dr. Campbell. “I have this unique opportunity to make a profound impact on their lives. And that is a very precious, fulfilling thing.”

From Technician to Physician

Dr. Campbell grew up on a dairy farm in Luray, Virginia, where she was surrounded by animals and learned compassion for all living things—people included. She earned her degree in psychology at George Mason University in Virginia, and worked as a technician in a psychiatric hospital after graduation.

With an eye towards entering the medical field, Dr. Campbell switched jobs after a few years to do research with the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). But it wasn’t what she’d hoped it would be.

“I was spending all my time with data instead of people,” Dr. Campbell says, “and it occurred to me that I didn’t want to do this for the rest of my life.”

That’s when she knew she wanted to be back in the hospital—not as a technician, but as a physician.

Thanks to her years at AAMC, she was intimately familiar with the U.S. medical education system. Instead of applying to U.S. medical schools, though, she chose to apply to Ross University School of Medicine on the Caribbean island of Dominica. She had always wanted to live abroad and decided this was the perfect opportunity.  

“I loved it,” Dr. Campbell says of her time in Dominica. “It was definitely challenging at times, but everyone was supportive, and all in all it was an extremely positive experience.”

Dr. Campbell completed her residency in psychiatry at the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. Then, she entered a dual fellowship program at Columbia University in public and emergency psychiatry, taking on her current role at the conclusion of the fellowship.

“I definitely found the right place for me,” she says. “I love what I’m doing.”

Treating the Whole Person

In the emergency room, Dr. Campbell sees dozens of patients in various stages of crisis. Although her approach varies depending on the situation, she tells every patient two things: You are normal, and there is hope.

This kind of reassurance is critical in psychiatry, where there are still pockets of stigma surrounding mental illness that act as a barrier to people getting the care they need.

“I tell my patients, ‘It’s okay. You are not strange, you are not crazy, you are not any of those things. You’re a normal person dealing with life,’” says Dr. Campbell. “And the second thing I tell them is that there is hope, you can get better. You don’t have to feel like this.”

Dr. Campbell takes a holistic approach to treating her patients, especially as their mental health issues are often intertwined with other factors, such as environment, family, and life circumstances. In this way, although she is called to see patients because of their psychiatric issues, Dr. Campbell also focuses on the other forms of dysfunction that plague her patients, and which serve as underlying causes.

“If you don’t look at the big picture of the patient as a total human being, then I think you really fail them,” says Dr. Campbell. “So I try to incorporate that into the work I do with my patients.”

For example, she recently started a program in the emergency room in which volunteers work with patients to do art projects, using clay and other art supplies. Interested patients will have the opportunity to contribute their work to a group art exhibit.

“The art they create, it’s just breathtaking,” says Dr. Campbell. “And it’s a way for them to share their stories and be heard.”

Social support is also a critical factor in patient wellness. And, as Dr. Campbell notes, that support doesn’t always have to be human.

Kendra Campbell, MD, Ross Alumna
Campbell and her canine companion, Scope, a mixed-breed Dominican dog.

“There are lots of studies that show all the positive impact pets can have on their owners’ physical and psychological well-being,” says Dr. Campbell. Benefits include decreasing loneliness, providing a sense of purpose and increasing self-confidence, according to the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI). For these reasons and more, animal-assisted therapy is increasingly being used as a strategy in treating depression1.

All in all, it’s about helping someone in a way that works for them.

“Just giving someone a pill isn’t going to fix them,” says Dr. Campbell. “I encourage patients to use everything at their disposal to get better—I don’t just focus on medications.”

On Feeling Unconventional

Dr. Campbell records her experiences in medicine on her blog at DoctorPsychobabble.com. Thanks to the blog’s popularity, over the years she’s received thousands of emails from aspiring medical students with whom her words have resonated.

Her inbox fills up with all sorts of questions, from medical school to residency to psychiatry. Still, one common theme tends to emerge: Should I go to medical school?

“I hear from many people who tell me they feel unconventional as a potential med student. Maybe they’re older, or they don’t have the highest GPA, or they’ve had a career in something else,” says Dr. Campbell. “They say, ‘I’ve been thinking about medical school—how do I decide if I should go?’”

She recommends getting as much experience as possible to test the waters and make sure it’s what you really want to do. “I can’t make that decision for anyone. But I am a chronic optimist and I believe in following your dreams,” she says. “If that’s your dream and you have the passion, go for it. At least try it. So many people live with regrets, and if you start the journey, at least you’ll know if it’s for you.”

As for Dr. Campbell, she knows it’s for her.

“Now I’m doing what I feel like I always wanted to do,” she says. “And I couldn’t have done it without Ross.”

1http://habri.org/depression

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STUDENTS: From Gold Mining, to MERP, to Trauma Surgery

July 19, 2016

Dr. Stanley White, senior associate dean, presents Ben Kuhns with Dean's List award.

Dr. Stanley White, senior associate dean, presents Ben Kuhns with Dean's List award.

After graduating with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in forensic science, Ben Kuhns hoped to join a crime lab in his home state of Alaska. But there was only one, and it was in the midst of a hiring freeze.

So he took a slightly different path.

Over the course of several years, Kuhns spent time crab fishing, working in oil fields, and gold mining. A lifelong outdoorsman, Kuhns enjoyed the work and the lifestyle. Still, something was missing.

“It was physically demanding, which I don’t mind, but I wanted to use my brain more than my body,” Kuhns says.

That intellectual itch is part of what led him to Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM). Kuhns had always cultivated an interest in science, and has volunteered with humanitarian groups such as Habitat for Humanity International. His connection to medicine was also extremely personal: His sister passed away from a meningioma that went undiagnosed for too long.

“In a way, I was bringing together everything that’s happened in my life by applying to medical school,” he says.

On MERP: “They Don’t Hold Your Hand, But They Help You Through It”

Kuhns with his classmates during clinicals

Kuhns was granted conditional acceptance to RUSM, on the condition that he successfully complete the Medical Education Readiness Program (MERP) before starting as a first-semester med student.

“At first, it was a little terrifying, because I had been out of school for so long,” admits Kuhns, who was 28 when he applied. “It was tough trying to get back into an academic environment, let alone medical school.”

That’s exactly the benefit that MERP provides, especially for career changers and students who have been out of school for some time, like Kuhns. The 15-week program offers additional academic preparation and helps students adjust to the demands of medical school.

For Kuhns, MERP provided a combination of academic and social support. In addition to instructors who helped him improve his study skills and presented information in memorable ways, he found a good friend in his randomly assigned roommate, Neal Ferrick. Being able to encourage and help one another was a key factor in his success, Kuhns says. He also cites his family as a major source of support throughout both MERP and medical school.

“MERP is something I think everyone should go through. They don’t hold your hand, but they help you through it,” he says. “I got plenty of things wrong, and then I learned by understanding the issue and applying it next time. There’s no better way to learn than by failing.”

His hard work paid off. Kuhns received the MERP Scholar Award—given to students who have excelled academically and provided leadership to peers during MERP—and continued to do well at RUSM.

“I don’t think I could’ve gotten dean’s list all four semesters without MERP,” Ben says. “It teaches you to be a proactive student.”

Looking Ahead

Now, Kuhns is completing his clinical rotations at Atlanta Medical Center, experiencing the different specialties available. Although he came in thinking that cardiology would be his favorite, he’s fallen in love with trauma surgery. Still, he’s keeping his options open. 

“The future is unknown, but I’d eventually like to make it back to Alaska,” he says. “Alaska is where my heart is.”

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SCHOLARSHIP: Student, Mother, Nurse Follows Childhood Dream to MD

July 13, 2016

Rewaida Hall, Class of 2020, recipient of the Eliza Ann Grier scholarship

Rewaida Hall, Class of 2020, recipient of the Eliza Ann Grier scholarship

On a visit to the doctor’s office at age 9, Rewaida Hall didn’t sit quietly on the exam table and wait for the medical staff to ask her questions. Instead, she informed the nurses and doctor that she already knew what had her under the weather: measles. She showed them the spots on her skin, rattled off the rest of her symptoms, and considered the matter settled.

“The doctor smiled and asked what I wanted to be when I grew up,” says Hall, “and I replied without hesitation, ‘a doctor.’”

It hardly needed to be said. Even without her self-diagnosis, Hall’s natural inclination to be a doctor was plain from the outset. She would gather the neighborhood kids and set up a mock hospital, analyzing their symptoms, providing a diagnosis and treating their illness with candy (much to her mother’s dismay). Then, when Hall entered secondary school, she followed an educational track designed for students with an interest in health science. When she received an assignment to interview a community figure who inspired her, she chose a physician.

It seemed all the pieces were falling into place. Until they weren’t.

A Dream Deferred

Hall grew up in an extended family setting in Ghana alongside her cousins and their respective families. As she was in the same age cohort as two of her male cousins, the three of them went through all their rites of passage together. However, Hall was designated the nurse of the family, while the two males had the choice of being a physician or an engineer.

So medicine was pushed to the back burner as Hall entered college at the University of Akron in Ohio. There, she discovered a burgeoning interest in geography and anthropology. Although she had pivoted outside of healthcare, Hall thought this might provide another avenue to make a positive difference in people’s lives—through building healthier communities. So she earned her bachelor’s degree in geography and planning, followed by two master’s degrees in geography and planning, and public administration.

Hall interned for the city of Akron in the planning department. But her hopes of satisfying the desire to have a direct impact on people quickly faded.

“I realized I couldn’t effect nearly as much change as I thought,” says Hall.

She returned to school yet again and completed the accelerated nursing program her family had always wanted. Working as a nurse in the clinical setting, she had much more direct interaction in caring for people. But at the same time, the constant contact with practicing physicians only exacerbated her feeling of discontent.

“Every day I worked with physicians and saw how much of a difference their knowledge and expertise made in patients’ lives,” Hall says. “That’s what convinced me I wouldn’t be satisfied until I had my MD.”

"Don't Let Anyone Say You Can't Do It"

Now, with the support of her husband and children, Hall is continuing the journey she started long ago to become a physician. She is the recipient of the Eliza Ann Grier scholarship, offered to incoming first-semester students from under-represented minority groups in the field of medicine.

“Don’t let anyone say you can’t do it because of your age, who you are or where you come from,” says Hall. “If you have the desire and are willing to put in the effort, you can do it.”

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Tags: Scholarships , Ohio , Nurse

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ALUMNI: Obtaining a Residency was a Pinnacle Moment for RUSM Grad

July 12, 2016

Erin Healey, associate director of Admissions (left), and RUSM grad Madhura Manjunath (right) reconnected at the RUSM match celebration in New York.

Erin Healey, associate director of Admissions (left), and RUSM grad Madhura Manjunath (right) reconnected at the RUSM match celebration in New York.

“I feel like my whole life has been leading up to this moment,” said Madhura Manjunath. She just began the internal medicine residency program at Berkshire Medical Center in Massachusetts.

Recounting how she arrived at this point in her life, Manjunath recalled that a deciding factor in her enrolling at Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) was her interview with Erin Healey, associate director of Admissions at RUSM. “I met with Erin and she was so nice,” said Manjunath. “My interview with Erin was my first experience with Ross and I loved it.”

“I had a great time going through the different [clinical] rotations. I really enjoyed my clinical years,” said Manjunath. “I advise students to take advantage of every opportunity they get. Ross has a lot to offer.”

One of the opportunities Manjunath had was working alongside Vijay Rajput, MD, who is the medical director of RUSM’s Office of Student Professional Development. According to Manjunath, “there is so much to do if you reach out and make different connections with people.”

Manjunath’s long-term plan is to develop a career in pulmonary critical care. After completing clinical training at a critical care unit at St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore, Manjunath realized she “loved the experience.” 


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ACADEMICS: RUSM Chairman of Medicine Publishes Editorial in Journal

July 12, 2016

Vijay Rajput, MD, professor and chairman of medicine
Vijay Rajput, MD (right), Professor and Chairman of Medicine at RUSM

Dr. Vijay Rajput, Professor and Chairman of Medicine at Ross University School of Medicine, has published an editorial in the current issue of the Indian Journal of Medical Specialties.

The article—titled Subtraction: Critical skills for clinician at bedside—begins with a quote from Lao Tzu: "To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, subtract things every day."

Below is an excerpt from the article:

“During residency training, physicians come across many diagnostic, communication, and/or administrative challenges in clinical care,” Rajput writes. “Both the teacher and learner can learn a lot from these challenges with patient care and the hospital system. Internship and residency are the important formative times in their professional education. This is the time in which residents get experiential learning while taking care of patients under the supervision of their attending, as well as understand the balance between autonomy and supervision.”

Download the article here.

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CAMPUS: AMSA is Just One of Nearly 50 RUSM Student Organizations

July 08, 2016

A Slice of Campus Life

Recently, the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) on the Dominica campus participated in a health fair for RUSM colleagues. AMSA, just one of nearly 50 student-run organizations that are registered on campus, collaborated with several students, including those representing the Optic, Endocrinology and Family Medicine clubs.

“The students exhibited great teamwork, and provided screenings and educational materials throughout the day,” said Joseph A. Flaherty, MD, who is the RUSM dean and chancellor. “It is very rewarding to see our students giving back in so many ways through their many clubs and organizations.”

 

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ADMISSIONS: Check Out These Available Scholarships for Incoming September Students

July 06, 2016

Student Aly Klein (above) was recently awarded the Community Health Leadership Award for first semester. Learn about the award below. You can read Aly's story here.

We don’t want financial barriers to stand in the way of you achieving your dream and becoming a physician. Potential Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) students may be eligible for scholarships to help offset the cost of medical school. See below for the lineup of scholarships available for admitted students who enroll in our September 2016 class, plus a few stories about some recent award/scholarship recipients.

Awards/Scholarships for Incoming First-Semester Students (Automatically Considered)

For the six scholarships detailed below, no application is necessary—you’ll be considered for these scholarships based on your medical school application materials.

Opportunity Scholarship

Merit-based $25,000 scholarship, offered based on overall undergraduate GPA or MCAT score. Awarded in $5,000 increments over semesters 1 through 5.

Chancellor’s Academic Achievement Award

Merit-based $25,000 award, offered based on overall undergraduate GPA or MCAT score. Awarded in even increments between semesters 1 and 2.

Canadian Founder Award

Merit-based $15,000 award, offered to Canadian students based on overall undergraduate GPA or MCAT score.

Dean’s Academic Merit Scholarship

Merit-based $10,000 scholarship, offered based on minimum overall undergraduate GPA or MCAT score. Awarded in $2,500 increments over semesters 1 through 4.

Community Health Leadership Award

Merit-based $10,000 award, offered to students who have made significant community contributions through volunteer work and/or research and based on overall undergraduate GPA or MCAT scores.

Dean’s Scholar Award

Merit-based $3,000 award, offered based on overall undergraduate GPA, prerequisite GPA, and MCAT score.

Awards/Scholarships for Incoming First-Semester Students
(Short Award/Scholarship Application Required)

For the three awards/scholarships below, you’ll need to complete a short award/scholarship application, which you can find on the web page for the award you’re considering.

Alumni Legacy Scholarship

Merit-based scholarship that covers first-semester tuition. Applicants must have a letter of recommendation from a RUSM graduate. MCAT score, GPA, clinical experience, and special honors/recognition will be considered as criteria. Applicants who are not offered the Alumni Legacy Scholarship will automatically be offered a $500 Alumni Book Scholarship if they completed all initial eligibility requirements.

The deadline to apply for this scholarship is July 15, 2016.

Eliza Ann Grier Scholarship

Merit-based $20,000 scholarship offered to US citizens from under-represented minority groups in the field of medicine (African-American, Native American, or Hispanic-American). Overall undergraduate GPA, personal essay, and letters of recommendation will be considered.

The deadline to apply for this scholarship is July 15, 2016.

MERP Scholar Award

Merit-based $10,000 award offered to students who excelled academically and provided leadership to peers during the Medical Education Readiness Program (MERP). Eligibility criteria include overall MERP score, personal essay, and letters of recommendation from MERP peers/faculty.

Recommended Reading: Stories about Recent Award/Scholarship Recipients

  • “My dad always told me don’t be average. If you’re average—if you do the same things everyone else does and follow the masses—then you won’t go anywhere,” says Aly Klein, a recipient of the Community Health Leadership Award. It’s a message that he took to heart. Read Aly’s story here. 
  • At 14, Stacey Sassaman decided to pursue medicine when her grandfather was diagnosed with a rare, malignant brain tumor. “I wanted to understand the disease process. I wanted to help him and future patients,” said Sassaman. She received both the Community Health Leadership Award and the Dean’s Academic Merit awards. Read Stacey’s story here. 
  • Knowing firsthand what it’s like to grow up in an underserved community, Stephen Sebastian hopes to open a rural medical practice. He began the first step toward realizing his goal when he enrolled at RUSM in January 2015, receiving the Canadian Founder Award and Dean’s Academic Merit Scholarships. Read Stephen’s story here.

Tags: Admissions , Scholarships

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